Searching for purpose: Teachers finding personal meaning for computer usage in elementary classrooms

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Nick Smith


Computer, Purpose, Teachers, Personal meaning, Elementary classrooms

Subject Categories



With the influx of computers into classrooms, defining computer usage and how it affects the teaching and learning environment is essential. Computers mean different things to different users and classroom context varies. This research aims to add to the existing information about the integration of computers into classrooms, specifically elementary classrooms, and what this means to teachers.

I studied three primary teachers during the installation of networked computers in their classrooms. I was interested in how the teachers learned to use computers, how they came to know the role that the computer played in their teaching and learning environment, and what they believed helped or hindered their quest.

This study is qualitative in nature. I elected the case study approach since my primary goal in conducting this research was to learn how teachers understand and implement computer technology. Interviews, observations, and document analysis were conducted over one year. In analyzing the data I explored teachers' feelings, ideas, motives, and attitudes. Coding categories emerged as regularities and patterns of practice developed. A rich description emerged reflecting the teacher's use and feelings toward computers.

The data are divided into three chapters. A chapter describing teacher uses, a chapter about their teaching philosophies and preferences, and a final data chapter about the ways in which they coped with the installation of computers. I discussed specific uses based upon teaching routines, history and experience, the educational philosophies that guide teaching and learning in each teacher's classroom, and issues such as time, resources, and staff development as they related to ways teachers used computers.

The study led me to conclude that each teacher used computers in different ways based on their established routines, educational philosophies, and histories. Many barriers to their practice were uncovered and discussed. Specific instructional practices are related to the factors developed in my research question. Implications regarding planning for computers, staff development, preservice education approaches, and the use of computers to develop literacy in children concluded my work.


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